Early in his coaching career, Nick Myers was a camp counselor at the Cardigan Mountain Lacrosse Camp, a famed New England institution that dates to the 1970s. One of his fellow counselors was a high school coach from New Jersey, Kyle Kirst.
Myers, Kirst and the rest of the staff used to play pickup basketball in the evenings. “Kirst was the man, big power forward,” Myers said.
Kirst, the father of five lacrosse-playing sons, had his children at the camp and Myers, now the head coach at Ohio State and for the U.S. men’s U19 team, remembers the boys when they were little.
The middle of those five boys, Cole, was introduced to the U.S. national team program at those camps by another counselor — Dan Eipp, a member of the gold-medal winning 2012 U.S. U19 team who went on to play at Harvard and now plays in the Premier Lacrosse League.
It got a young Cole dreaming of wearing red, white and blue, but he knows the dream isn’t easy. His older brothers Connor (a senior All-American midfielder at Villanova) and Colin (a senior goalie at Lehigh) both applied to try out for the 2016 U.S. U19 team, but were not invited.
Cole Kirst, a sophomore attackman at Lehigh, got the call to try out for the 2020 U.S. team, along with his younger brother, C.J., a senior at Delbarton (N.J.).
C.J. did not move on in the tryout process, but Cole finds himself as one of 32 players headed to Ohio State for a training camp this weekend, trying to make the final 23-man roster that will play in the World Lacrosse Men’s U19 World Championship in Ireland next summer.
It would be another milestone for this lacrosse family, which suffered a tragic loss in 2015 when Kyle Kirst, a former Rutgers goalie, died suddenly at age 47.
Lacrosse has helped the Kirst family heal. C.J. will become the fourth of the siblings to play Division I lacrosse when he heads to Cornell next year. The youngest, Caden, is in eighth grade, and a goalie like his father.
“I can’t imagine my life without lacrosse,” Cole said. “I know how proud he’d be of each of us, and my mom is just as proud.”